As 2022 dawned, technology cemented its vital role in healthcare, with several dominant trends reflected in nursing education.
Beverly Malone, Ph.D., RN, FAAN
President and CEO, National League for Nursing
Sophisticated virtual instructional resources, like simulation, transition students into technology-laden practice while protecting the critical “high-touch” collaborative spirit that has long guided nurse-patient relationships.
Beyond the classroom, nurse educators have propelled the science of health informatics, which is the field of science and engineering aimed at developing methods and technologies for the acquisition, processing, and study of patient data. A key to improving the coordination of care and lowering barriers to care access, informatics ultimately advances quality and safety of care delivery as well as health equity for historically underserved communities, a long-sought goal of health policy experts and social justice advocates.
With patient engagement technology a top focus, telehealth is now a respected part of the healthcare delivery landscape. Likewise, nursing education has increased its reliance on virtual learning in classroom and clinical settings, a tactic that aids students in preparing to support patients they will encounter through telehealth visits.
Instruction in conducting online patient interviews has paved the way for improved communication between nurses and patients, removing obstacles to care in response to patient demand. Becoming comfortable with the move to telehealth has also boosted student confidence in formulating diagnoses and treatment plans and making referrals to primary care physicians and specialists.
The social determinants of health — the daily environment in which people live and work — have fostered a culture of continuous holistic care that has required students to learn to navigate electronic medical records systems. These provide nurses and other caregivers with comprehensive patient profiles, improve access to information, and connect patients to their network of caregivers, from primary care and mental health providers to social workers, occupational therapists, and more. Nurses, as the most trusted professionals at the center of caregiving, can facilitate medical management of acute and chronic conditions across multiple healthcare settings.
Another outgrowth of holistic health has been the emergence of mobile health apps.These offer nurses another opportunity to coordinate care by utilizing technology in collaboration with other members of the healthcare team. Apps permit the integration of data and analytics in real time, based on input from clinicians and patients themselves, as well as from laboratory and other testing sites. Undoubtedly, apps will become a valuable tool in empowering students to complete clinical education requirements.
Checking heart rates and blood pressure in simulation scenarios run on virtual patients, with vital statistics entered in an accessible digital information format, can enable students to better connect the dots, generating understanding of the relationship between conditions like hypertension and diabetes and a patient’s need for a range of services and interventions.
Advancing the science of informatics
In the coming decade, nursing education will continue to have an important role in advancing the science of informatics — to deploy artificial intelligence, coordinate care through digital platforms like patient portals, and improve healthcare transparency and the gathering and flow of clinical data.
Rigorous academic and clinical investigations have already contributed significantly to the growing body of informatics scholarship and created opportunities for nursing leadership in this dynamic, interdisciplinary arena of healthcare. Nurse education leaders will continue to expand their influence as healthcare organizations evolve their delivery strategies for care and increasingly rely on data collection, storage, and use.